Can You Deliver Happiness?

Is there a real business case for helping people to be happier at work? Or is it just a dreamy aspiration?  Or at best a passing fad?

Research suggests that happier employees are more productive, engaged, and creative problem solvers.  They have less sick days and are more likely to stay with your organization.  So how does this work?

“Happier employees equals happier customers, and equals a more sustainable and profitable business,“ said Jenn Lim the CEO of Delivering Happiness, a company co-founded with Tony Heisch from Zappos when I interviewed her recently. “And at the same time, you’re creating meaningful lives for your employees.”

Jenn suggests that organizations in any industry can take steps to improve the happiness of their people and reap the benefits this provides.  For example, an accounting firm with 150 employees implemented changes for a happier workplace culture and over the next 18 months doubled their revenue, and a health care organization employing 50,000 people increased employee engagement from 45 to 85% as a result of prioritizing their employee’s happiness.

How can you achieve these kinds of results?

A growing body of evidence suggests that tapping into the three basic psychological needs we all have – autonomy, connectedness, mastery  – can lead to a more engaged and happier workforce.  And when you embed these core elements in your systems you are more likely to create changes that are sustainable over time.  For example, one way that Zappos achieves this is by offering new recruits up to $5000 to walk out the door, no questions asked, during their initial five-week training.  This gives them a sense of assurance that candidates are committed to adopting and making progress towards the organization’s espoused values and purpose.

Jenn shared how to use these intrinsic needs as levers to create happier workplace cultures.

  • Encourage autonomy – having some freedom to do your own work in your own way has been found to provide a sense of ownership that drives you to do more – to strengthen your talents, improve your abilities and contribute to your organization’s purpose.  Giving your teams both control and accountability to self-manage their work, can reinforce trust and empowers your people to do their best.  You can do this through flexible work schedules, clear career pathways, choice of role titles, or input on decisions.

You can also give your people the autonomy to create their own job title or job description that reflects their strengths and what they do when they’re in a state of flow.  Start with taking a strengths assessment such as the Gallup Clifton Strengths, or VIA Strengths survey to understand what strengths they bring to their roles.   Then give people the opportunity to fuse these strengths into their role by asking them: “Based on your strengths, what do you want to own in this role?”  For example, a receptionist in a popular doctor’s office gave herself the title of ‘Director of First Impressions.’

  • Build connectedness – high-quality connections with others at work give you a sense of belonging and vitality that can enhance your own and your organization’s performance. When you have teams that care and show compassion for each other you are more likely to collaborate and be innovative, and have higher levels of resilience, retention, and service to customers.  Jenn explained that you can achieve more meaningful connections in your relationships at work when you feel accepted and safe enough to show up authentically as who you are.

You can increase a sense of connectedness by encouraging your people to bring their passions to work, whatever these may be, such as photography, cooking, or camping.   This can facilitate deep, authentic connections with people that can transfer outside the workplace, and encourage not work-life balance but work-life integration.  For example, hearing water cooler conversations such as: “I’m going camping this weekend with my family” can inspire others to get involved.

  • Develop mastery – when you’re making progress towards meaningful and purposeful goals you can feel that your contributions and actions matter both for your own satisfaction and for your team. You can gain a sense of progress by celebrating milestones, learning new skills, growing from setbacks or challenges, and receiving constructive feedback.

For example, at Arkadium, a company recognized as one of the ‘Best Places to Work,’ each employee is given a pad of sticky notes that read ‘Lil’ Wins’ that they use to jot down any achievements or milestones as they occur.  Then they spend the last few minutes of their weekly meeting sharing their wins – either big or small – to celebrate their progress.

What can you do to bring more happiness into your workplace culture?

What can you do to bring more happiness into your workplace culture?

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